How to Find the Right CMA Program near North Little Rock Arkansas
Once you have decided to join the gratifying field of healthcare and enroll in a medical assistant school near North Little Rock AR, it's time to select a school that will provide the appropriate training. But just how do you undertake comparing and evaluating colleges so that you subsequently enroll in the best one? Many prospective students start by evaluating the medical assistant schools that are closest to their residences and then lean toward those that have the most affordable tuition. While location and cost are very important, such things as accreditation, internship programs and job assistance are critical issues as well. You may decide to take a look at several online medical assistant programs as an alternative as well (more about that later). The main point is that prior to selecting a college you need to complete your due diligence and compare all important aspects of the schools you are assessing. And to help you with that task, we have included some questions that you need to ask each of the colleges on your "maybe" list. But before we start that review, let's talk a little bit about the function of a medical assistant and the kind of training and credentials that are available.
The Responsibilities of a Medical Assistant
The responsibilities of a medical assistant can be varied as well as challenging. Essentially their role is ensure that the North Little Rock AR hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities where they work run efficiently. Based on the size or type of facility, they can be more of a clinical assistant, an administrative assistant, or in smaller facilities both. They are responsible for providing direct assistance to the physicians, nurses and other medical practitioners but may also be found performing duties at the front desk or in an office. Some of the potential functions of a medical assistant include:
- Filling out insurance forms and filing claims
- Scheduling and verifying appointments
- Weighing and taking patients vital signs
- Taking blood and other fluid and tissue samples
- Preparing instruments and rooms for doctors
- Giving basic support during examinations and procedures
Even though medical assistants can carry out almost any duty they are authorized to under Arkansas law, some choose to specialize in a specific area and obtain certification. Two of the options offered are for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) and the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) made available by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Medical Assistant Education
Compared to most other medical practitioners, medical assistants are not required to become certified, licensed, or to obtain a college degree. However, a number of North Little Rock AR health care employers would rather hire graduates of an accredited medical assistant training program (we'll cover accreditation later ) that have earned certification. There are basically two choices offered for a formal education. The first and shortest path to becoming a medical assistant is to attain a certificate or diploma. These programs usually take about 1 year to finish, a few as little as six to nine months. They are developed to teach the basics of medical assisting and prepare graduates for entry level positions. The second option is to attain an Associate Degree, which are normally 2 year programs offered at Arkansas junior and community colleges as well as technical and vocational schools. They are more extensive in nature than the certificate or diploma programs, and include general education courses in addition to the medical assistant training. They usually have a practical component involving an internship with a local medical facility. Associate Degrees are often a pre-requisite for and credits can be transferred to a four year Bachelor's Degree in Medical Assistant Studies or a related field.
Online Medical Assistant Classes
There are a number of accredited medical assistant programs available online as well. They are an excellent choice for those who may not have the time to attend classes on campus but could work them in if accessible at home. This is a particularly good alternative for Arkansas students who continue to work full-time while earning their certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, many online schools have lower tuitions than the more traditional on campus options. Ancillary expenses such as for textbooks, commuting and school supplies can be lessened also. Just keep in mind that all requirements for practical training or internships must still be met, but they can usually be completed in North Little Rock AR area medical care facilities. If you can earn a degree without the formal structure of participating in supervised classes on campus, then this method of getting your training might be the right choice for you. Between the online courses and the practical training, everything needed to attain proficiency to perform as a medical assistant is provided.
Certification Options for Medical Assistants
As earlier stated, certification is not a legal mandate, but is an excellent choice for graduates who want to advance their careers. It will not only help in getting employment after graduation, but it might also help with initial salary negotiations. Many potential North Little Rock AR medical employers just will not hire a medical assistant that has not received certification or accredited formal training. Among the most popular and possibly the most respected certification is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). In order to sit for the CMA examination, an applicant must be a graduate or will be graduating within 30 days from an accredited medical assistant program. Additional certifications are available as well, such as the CMAA and the CCMA that we discussed earlier which are offered by the NHA.
What to Ask Medical Assistant Colleges
Prior to reviewing your medical assistant school options, you need to decide which type of credential you would like to earn, and if you want to attend classes on campus or online from home. As soon as those choices have been made, you can begin the procedure of researching medical assistant schools. As we covered at the beginning of this article, many prospective students limit their searches to the schools that are nearest to North Little Rock AR with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important qualifiers, they are not the only ones. There are several additional considerations that you need to explore when evaluating programs. To help you with that task, below are some questions that you should ask about all of the schools you are thinking about before making your ultimate selection.
Is the Medical Assistant Program Accredited? There are many great reasons to make certain that the program you choose is accredited. First, accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive will be both extensive and of the highest quality. Next, if you plan on becoming certified, you need to enroll in an accredited program. Two of the accepted organizations for accreditation are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). If your program is not accredited by either of these organizations, you will not be qualified to take the CMA examination. Also, if you anticipate applying for a student loan or financial assistance, they are normally not offered for non-accredited programs. And last, as previously mentioned, many prospective North Little Rock AR employers will not hire a medical assistant who has not graduated from an accredited college.
What is the Program's Passing Percentage? The majority of Arkansas accredited medical assistant schools design their programs to ready students to pass one or more certification examinations. First, you need to determine which of the certifications the schools you are considering are preparing their students to take. If you are interested in taking the CMA for instance, then obviously you will need to enroll in a program focused on that certification. Next, ask what the school's passage rate is for the certification and contrast it to the national average. This is one of the methods to help assess the quality of a college's program. Obviously programs with low rates are those that you will want to avoid.
Which Credentials are Offered? As we previously covered, there are basically two routes to acquiring medical assistant training. You can select a diploma or certificate program and get entry level training in the shortest amount of time, starting at just 6 months, however the average is about 1 year. Or you can decide to acquire an Associate Degree and get a more comprehensive education that will require about two years to accomplish in a community college or trade school. Whatever program you decide to pursue, make sure that the Arkansas schools you are considering offer the kind of program you have an interest in.
Are Internships Provided? Many medical assistant schools offer internship programs with North Little Rock AR area medical care providers. They are a great means to get hands-on practical training and experience. They can also help students establish relationships within the North Little Rock healthcare community. And as an additional perk, they are an asset on resumes and for job interviews too.
Is Job Placement Support Offered? Landing that initial job can be a challenging undertaking for graduating medical assistant students unless they obtain some help from a job placement program. Confirm that the colleges you are interviewing provide job placement assistance in the North Little Rock AR area and ask what their placement rate is. If a program has a high job placement rate for its students, it indicates that it has a good reputation within the healthcare community. It also indicates that it has a broad network of contacts to help place students in positions.
How Large are the Classrooms? Class size can be an indication of how much personal instruction you will get during your training. Smaller classes and classes with a higher teacher to student ratio are more likely to furnish greater access to teachers and one-on-one interaction. If convenient, try to monitor a few classes before choosing a program to witness what the teaching environment is like and just how much attention the students receive.
Is Class Scheduling Convenient? If you plan on attending a medical assistant program while you continue to work on a full time basis, it's imperative that the school you select offers classes that fit your schedule. If you have to attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near North Little Rock AR, make sure that those times are available. You may be able to fit your classes in easier with an online school, but you will also have to schedule any internships or clinical training that will be required. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes that you may have to miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right North Little Rock AR Medical Assistant SchoolCourse
It's important to start your new career on the right foot by choosing a medical assistant program that will furnish the right training. Regardless if you're objective is to launch a career in healthcare starting out as a medical assistant or to practice medical assistance as your lifetime career, you must get the right info on available programs before making your selection. There are such a large number of colleges offering training these days that you can make a decision based on your personal preferences and individual circumstances. And as we have discussed in this article, verify that the program you decide on is accredited by a recognized agency, for example the CAAHEP. This is especially important if you plan on taking the CMA certification exam. But irrespective of the type of credential that you plan to earn or if you have decided to attend either an on-campus or online school, be sure to ask the questions we have provided in order to evaluate programs and make an informed decision. And by picking the right program you can ultimately begin a rewarding career as a medical assistant in North Little Rock AR.